2023 St. Paul school board candidates; 2023 election
St. Paul school board candidates, clockwise from top left: Yusef Carrillo, Abdi Omer, Chauntyll Allen, Gita Rijal Zeitler, Zuki Ellis, Erica Valliant, and Carlo Franco. Credit: Aaron Nesheim and Dymanh Chhoun | Sahan Journal, Chauntyll Allen campaign

This November, most of St. Paul’s school board is up for election. Voters will pick four members of the seven-person school board.

Two incumbents whose terms began in January 2020—Chauntyll Allen and Zuki Ellis—found their school board tenure disrupted by a global pandemic, distance learning, and a racial reckoning. One candidate, Yusef Carrillo, previously served on the school board as a temporary appointment to fill a vacancy, and landed in the middle of a debate about whether to close his children’s school. And four newcomers—Carlo Franco, Abdi Omer, Erica Valliant, and Gita Rijal Zeitler—hope to bring their voices and perspectives to shape the future of the school board.

St. Paul Public Schools, like many large urban school districts, has been attempting to stabilize enrollment after years of decline. That’s meant, in part, expanding culturally relevant school options for immigrant families, who often prefer charter schools.

St. Paul Public Schools has been grappling with stability in other ways, too. Over the past year, the district held difficult and painful conversations about school safety, particularly after the fatal stabbing of 15-year-old Devin Scott at Harding High School during school hours. Authorities charged a 16-year-old classmate with murder in the case. 

The district has also been bringing new approaches to literacy and family engagement. Last fall, St. Paul Public Schools switched to a new literacy curriculum as part of a national movement toward the science of reading. And next year, the district will have to make major changes to its budget as federal COVID aid expires.

Seven candidates are on the ballot. We interviewed all seven to hear their thoughts on some of the major issues facing the district.

All St. Paul voters can choose four candidates. Four will win seats on the school board. Get to know the candidates here:

Becky Z. Dernbach is the education reporter for Sahan Journal. Becky graduated from Carleton College in 2008, just in time for the economy to crash. She worked many jobs before going into journalism, including...